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WhatsApp with that? Facebook's latest purchase a hard sell for critics

Published: Friday, Feb. 21 2014 10:40 a.m. MST

This Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 photo shows the WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on an iPhone in New York. On Wednesday, the world's biggest social networking company announced it is buying mobile messaging service WhatsApp for up to $19 billion in cash and stock.

Patrick Sison, Associated Press

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By now, it’s well known that Facebook, the social networking giant, bought WhatsApp, a social media application that has nearly a billion followers, for $16 billion Wednesday.

Everything a person needs to know about the purchase can be found in an article by Time magazine, which explained what and how popular WhatsApp is. Time also explained why Facebook would want to buy the social media app, saying that the social networking company wants the photos and the reach WhatsApp has.

But there’s more to the acquisition than just buying a fancy new toy. BuzzFeed reported that WhatsApp was the closest thing to a Facebook killer there was, and Facebook was simply watching out for itself with the purchase.

“The most important thing to understand about WhatsApp is just how terrifying it is to a company like Facebook,” wrote BuzzFeed. “It can compete with Facebook on its most valuable turf — users’ smartphones and text conversations — without exhibiting aggressive business ambition. It’s drawing from the same limited pool of attention, and accommodating some of Facebook’s most addicting behaviors Facebook claims in its release that WhatsApp is approaching traffic levels comparable to the entirely of global traditional text messaging.”

In many ways, WhatsApp was becoming a lot like Facebook, according to Re/Code, an Internet news and analysis website. Online users, when given the option to share through social media, would find a WhatsApp option, too, only the shares would be more private than public, Re/Code reported. Through this process, WhatsApp was helping to promote websites like BuzzFeed in a private way, much like Facebook already does in the public sphere.

WhatsApp appealed to markets that Facebook had trouble penetrating. Though Facebook started its own messaging application, WhatsApp was already dominating in places around the world, BuzzFeed reported: “These were the numbers that Facebook couldn’t ignore, describing markets where it still has an opportunity to grow,” BuzzFeed said.

So in the end, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $16 billion, but there’s a lot more the social networking giant cold have done for that amount of money, according to Mashable, which published a video that looked a 10 different things Facebook could have bought for that price. Highlights include buying the combined GDP of 25 countries, financing six annual budgets for Detroit and owning 13 NFL teams, Mashable reported.

The deal also has affected Snapchat, which Facebook tried to buy for $3 billion in 2013. The private picture messaging application is now left on its own and unlikely to be bought by Facebook since WhatsApp brings Facebook into the seas of private social media, Tech Crunch said.

Not everyone thinks this buy will help Facebook either. The Wall Street Journal reported that WhatsApp and Facebook aren’t that popular in Asia, as social media applications like Line, WeChat and Kakao lead the way.

And Aaron Pressman of Yahoo said this purchase is a bad strategy for Facebook. Since WhatsApp doesn’t plan on adding any advertisers and will likely remain untouched, the app won’t aid Facebook in many ways, Pressman wrote.

“Buying WhatsApp doesn't solve Facebook's real problems,which involve building a bigger audience to attract more advertisers, learning its audience’s wants and desires to attract more advertisers, and keeping its audience engaged to — you guessed it — attract more advertisers," Pressman wrote.

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @hscribner

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